“I don’t see the Bills dominating this contest”
-Tony Bogyo, August 30th, 2003
“Fear and Loathing in New England”
O.K., so I’m not some great oracle of football. I suppose if I was I’d be playing big in Vegas or running for governor of California rather than sitting in front of my computer writing this piece. Jimmy the Greek’s job as a football betting wiz is safe for now.
It hardly matters; I’m feeling good today anyway. I’ve got that bounce in my step that only a Bills fan in New England can feel – the one that makes you want to ask just about everyone you see, “who’s your daddy?”
It was a drubbing. A savage beating. A good ‘ol fashioned ass whooping. And I saw the whole thing with a few thousand members of Bills Nation on Sunday. I swear I heard the echoing voice of Marv Levy asking, “Where would you rather be than right here, right now?”
As usual, the parking lots at The Ralph looked like a cross between an afternoon barbeque with the gang and feeding time at the zoo. Footballs flew through the air like flocks of birds heading for warmer climates – at any given time you could look to the horizon and see a few dozen in flight. Everyone was awash in Bills colors, be it a jersey, hat, hair color or body paint (sometimes all of the above). It was as if the lunatics from the asylum had escaped and looted the Bills Pro Shop, walking off wearing anything and everything they could find.
I stopped dead in my tracks as I walked across Lot 5 and followed the eyes of a thousand or so fellow fans, transfixed by the vision of a man standing atop an old school bus. The man fired up the crowd as he produced a Tom Brady jersey and doused it with lighter fluid. Minutes later when he found a working lighter the jersey became a flaming effigy of the hated Patriots quarterback. The crowd went crazy – it was a scene out of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.
As usual, there were plenty of Patriot fans in the stadium. They walked in wearing their Patriots jerseys, and quite a few had painted themselves silver. Some were quiet – just in town to see a good game, others were there to be obnoxious and look like some fat, drunk and stupid version of the Tin Man (and I always thought is was the scarecrow who didn’t have a brain).
You knew the player announcements were going to be emotionally charging – the spark to set off the 12th Man. The new-look defense was announced to the crowd, with the best saved for last. One by one the Bills strutted out of the huge inflatable helmet, each with a new dance move that sure took time and effort to choreograph. The crowd went crazy when Sam Adams lumbered (is there any other way to describe how this guy moves when going fast?) out onto the field. The fever pitch grew when Takeo Spikes joined his teammates, but the emotional zenith was reserved for the newest Bill, Lawyer Milloy. Milloy juked his way out to midfield and I just about went deaf. Four military jets flew over the stadium, and I was ready for some football. Good Lord, my throat was already raw from yelling and they hadn’t even flipped the damn coin.
The game started very well. An 80 yard drive caped off by a 1 yard Travis Henry touchdown. Now if only our defense could hold them and make them go three and out.
I’ll admit it – I was not convinced that the defensive acquisitions made in the off-season would translate into a powerhouse defense, at least not at first. Sure we were better on paper, but what had we really seen to prove that this was going to be a dominant bunch? Brady and crew, the same folks who embarrassed us last year at home, would certainly be a tough early test.
The Patriots got the ball with decent field position (their own 35 yard line), and gained 6 yards on the ground in the first two plays. On third and four Brady dumped off to Centers who was met by Spikes and Jeff Posey for a three-yard loss – we had indeed held them to a three and out. The loudmouthed Pats fans sitting all around me grew more silent. This game was getting better all the time.
On drive number two Drew Bledsoe had a nifty 49-yard bomb to Eric Moulds. The drive went as far as the New England forty-yard line before a bad snap forced the Bills to punt. As Troy Brown signaled for the fair catch at the seven-yard line I noticed a flag out on the field – could we actually get so lucky as to keep the ball? It would have had to be a penalty on the Pats before the ball was kicked, and one that carried an automatic first down. Sure enough, the football gods had smiled on us once again – defensive holding before the snap, first down Buffalo. Seven plays later Dave Moore caught the touchdown to put the Bills up 14-0.
The Bills again held the Pats to a three and out – 2 yards in 1:16. The Bills followed suit, running three plays for 5 yards before punting. The very next offensive play by New England resulted in a tremendous interception by Adams. The behemoth tackle (not a pound lighter than 380 to be sure) looked like a runaway freight train as he thundered into the end zone after one of the slowest 37 yard runs in history. The stadium went nuts. Pats fans hung their heads low – this game was becoming a blowout for the good guys.
For those of you who read my column last week, you know I have no love for Brady. It’s safe to say I hate that Matt Damon-looking, hot model-dating, breakfast sandwich-eating punk like few others. By my tally, Brady’s stats to this point in the game were 1 of three for –3 yards and an interception.
Brady was sacked on the next play, and by the time he was picked off 6 plays later by Nate Clements (kudos to Lawyer for tipping the ball), Brady was 2 of 4 for 4 yards with two interceptions. By halftime the score was 21-0 Buffalo and Brady was 4 of 11 for –1 yard with 2 picks and a passer rating of 5.4. The heavy hammer of justice had fallen hard on Brady and I was in heaven.
Looking at the time of possession for the first half, it was obvious that someone had been out coached. The Bills held the ball for 19:20 in the first half, almost 9 minutes more than the Patriots. I remember how Bill Parcels had used time of possession to beat the super Bills in our first Super Bowl, and for the first time I actually smiled at a memory of that game. The ball control offense the Bills said they were going to use this year had arrived, and it was wildly successful.
I don’t remember much about halftime, except that the Pats fans were looking pretty grim. Ever obnoxious, many of them were trying to rally their comrades, but the truth was they were getting their butts kicked. Early in the third quarter the Bills gave the Pats a gift when they fumbled a handoff and allowed the Pats to drive down to the 8-yard line. But the Pats never scored – the Bills defense did a great job.
Early in the fourth quarter the Bills drove for another touchdown, making the score an embarrassing 28-0. Pats fans scurried for the exits as if some sort of roach bomb had been detonated. Having taken such an exit a few times myself, I did feel pity for those departing. Pity aside, it was one of the best feelings in the world to be on the other side of such a spectacle.
After a Rian Lindell 44 yard field goal and a fantastic goal line stand by the Bills to end the game, it was time to call it a day and head for the parking lot. My throat was bleeding from all the yelling and my hands hurt from clapping. The only damper on the day was that Adam Vinatieri, the kicker for my fantasy team, had scored zero points. A small price to pay – I’d do it every week if given the choice.
Arriving back in the Boston area very early Monday morning, I relished the thought of going into the office. Yes sir, nobody, and I mean nobody, would be able to give me any crap about the Bills this season. I proudly wore my “got bledsoe?” t-shirt and Bills hat out to the mall (I had taken Monday off), and I quite enjoyed the look on people’s faces. Nobody dared say anything - they didn’t have to. Quite simply, there was nothing to say.
Arriving back at work on Tuesday morning, I did worry that the Bills flag in my office would have been stolen or desecrated by some crazed local. My flag was safe, but hanging on my office door was a lame joke about the Bills that I will not repeat here (suffice it to say, it was lame in that any team name could have been inserted for the exact same effect). That gave me an excuse to retaliate. Using a picture I took at the game, I made a great sign to hang on my door. It reads (and still does), “Tickets to Game: $95, “got bledsoe t-shirt?”: $10, Wings: $8, Watching the Pats Suffer a Merciless Beating at the Hands of the Bills: Priceless” and then shows a picture of the final scoreboard – Bills 31, Patriots 0. I love that picture – I think I’ll keep it.
Now on to week two in Jacksonville. Mark my words – “I don’t see the Bills dominating this contest”….
Comments on this article